House Doctor: 'Is there any way we can sell our home in the next four weeks?'

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Question: My wife has been offered a job in Europe that means we really need to sell our home within four weeks to release vital cash to help us to move. We've seen ads for "fast home-sale specialists" and property sellers that guarantee "90 per cent of your home value", and promise to sell your house within days. Are they legitimate? We're desperate to move but have no idea if these operators are real or not.

Neil Roberts, Lancs

Answer: The need for speed tends to come at a hefty price – in your case, it may be way too high.

A speedy sale is certainly a possibility if you have a highly prized property in a prime location with a good school nearby and decent transport links. But if this doesn't sound like your home, you'll need a miracle to be able to swiftly sell in today's glum housing market.

Hometrack says the average time on the market is 9.6 weeks, so the chances of offloading your home in less than a month are pretty remote. It's this that so-called "fast home-sale specialists" exploit. Typically, these companies buy homes – often for cash – where the seller is either deep in debt, seeking to speed up a divorce or separation, or relocating for a job .

Critically, they'll buy a property at a major discount of between 45 per cent and 10 per cent of its market price and then resell it at close to full market value to make a profit.

Gavin Brazg at online property guide,, says: "In reality, these companies only pay 70 to 75 per cent of market value and, in five years of analysing this market, I have never ever heard of any property being purchased for anywhere close to 90 per cent."

Purchasing at 90 per cent of market price would not allow for profit, given the expense of stamp duty land tax, legal fees, mortgage arrangement fees and interest.

If your need to move is great enough to warrant selling at a 25 per cent discount to market value, consider such a company. But if that's too much of a financial hit, you could try estate agents that specialise in quick sales and beating the market.

Start with Mr Brazg says it has a strong track record of selling property within four weeks for 90-100 per cent of market value. "They work on 'no sale, no fee' basis and can help you avoid losing a bundle on the sale of your property."